These are indeed gloomy times for the Nigerian economy, and it could actually get worse. For the first time since 1995, Nigeria recorded a -0.36% negative GDP growth in a fiscal quarter. If that continues in the next quarter of 2016, we would be looking at a recession, without doubt a doomsday portend.
To make matters worse, about 1.5 million more Nigerians have lost their jobs since the end of 2015 and economic activities in the major contributors to our GDP have slumped to precarious levels. As if that’s not enough, pests of all kinds are on rampage. Take the Tuta Absoluta scourge which has made a spirited return to vegetable farms across the country thereby driving Tomatoes out of the reach of almost all Nigerians, and shutting down Nigeria’s two biggest Tomato crushing factories; 900,000 tonnes of lifelines to Nigerian Tomato farmers.
But it’s not all gloom and doom. Agriculture is generally providing good return on investment. Even when standing alone, it can solve Nigeria’s economic problems by enhancing production and investment, thereby returning us to the prosperous, near-utopian days of 80 kobo to the dollar.
How? As other big money sectors, including oil, were buckling to international price crashes and local militant activity, so was agriculture gaining in leaps and bounds; gaining 14% and contributing 19% to real GDP, almost 10% higher than Big Oil.
This is indeed the time for the Buhari government to stop paying lip service to its “economic diversification” mantra and pull our resources smack into the agricultural value chain at all levels and in all commodities. To start with, we need to double down on the Tuta epidemic and deal it a death blow, thereby driving Tomato prices down, providing the needed lifeline to Dangote and Erisco puree factories, thereby setting ourselves up for tomato exportation.
Lagosians still gulp 800,000 tonnes of rice per annum, valued at N135 billion. That money should go to Nigerian rice farmers, not the Chinese and Thais, henceforth. Our 30 billion dollar annual Agric import bill is many times our total annual budget, and at AgroNigeria, we dream of the year when Nigeria will export agricultural produce to the tune of 30 billion dollars, or even more, in a fiscal year.